Ever since economists failed to predict the Great Recession of late 2007 to 2009, a growing number scholars in the field have added a greater historical and philosophical sense to their empirical research. It is no surprise that these economists are mostly of the Austrian school or influenced by it, since that school’s founders—Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, and F.A. Hayek—viewed economic data with suspicion. Their heirs in America include Russ Roberts, Michael Munger, Deirdre McCloskey, and Tyler Cowen.
Archives for June 2017
I am strong advocate of liberty in society. Nevertheless, I don’t think of myself as a libertarian. First, many libertarians tend to engage in more reasoning from first principles and less reasoning from experience than I think wise. While in general individual freedom in a great social good, it is hard to define a priori the exact boundaries for freedom of a given society.
Moreover, while people do have rights, they also exist at a particular historical time and are to a degree constituted by social traditions. It is not, of course, that all these traditions are excellent and should be retained, but their too rapid elimination on the basis of abstract principles can disorient citizens as well as invite backlash against freedom.
As a result, I have been more attracted over time to “fusionism,” a combination of classical liberalism and traditional conservatism popularized in the modern era by Frank Meyer, which I see as giving a priority to liberty but offering respect for tradition. And tradition and liberty can be complementary as well as in dialectical tension. Under political structures conducive to liberty tradition offers some rough empirical guidance on the appropriate contours of freedom and constraints on imprudent changes during periods of political passion. And it provides a bulwark against destabilizing social change.
And nothing better expresses the essence of fusionism than sound federalism.
Sudan risks becoming another Somalia. Perhaps surprisingly, this risk does not arise from the chaos in the now-independent nation of South Sudan. Rather, conflict continues to simmer in Sudan’s peripheral regions, and not only in Darfur. When the current regime headed by President Omar Al-Bashir ends or collapses, centrifugal political forces, forces intentionally created by Al-Bashir’s government, almost guarantee the country’s government will break into multiple power centers. Each faction will be strong enough to resist defeat, but none will be strong enough to defeat the other power centers. The outcome threatens not only the stability of Sudan and its immediate neighbors, but threatens to unravel stability across Africa’s entire Sudanic belt and to provide a hospitable climate for international terrorism.
There has been much talk about President Trump’s statement to James Comey that he hoped that Comey could let the issue of prosecuting Michael Flynn go. Some people see in this statement an order that Comey not prosecute a criminal wrong, while others see merely a hope or request (but not an order) that Comey not prosecute.
It is a commonplace that Switzerland is the only real democracy in the world: that is to say, the only country in the world where the people control the government in more than a nominal and intermittent fashion, and can call it to account at any time, on any subject, at any level of the administration.
In no country is central government less important. The President of Switzerland changes every year, and the position is purely honorific. Many Swiss do not even know his (or her) name. And what non-Swiss has ever heard of a President of Switzerland?
Last month, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to reconsider its approval of the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” regulations. These rules, unsuccessfully challenged by telecommunications and other Internet providers, marked a reversal of course by the commission, which had previously applied a light touch when it came to regulation of the Internet.
Arguments about the wisdom of net neutrality and the FCC’s jurisdiction to regulate in this area are complex and fascinating matters I leave to more expert commentators. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s thoughtful dissent from the decision in United States Telecom Association v. Federal Communications Commission, however, raises an important question that cuts across administrative law as a whole: When, if it all, should a reviewing court defer to executive branch agencies’ legal interpretations that implicate “major” questions of social and economic policy?
The British election reveals the coming clash between the old and young in much of the West. The social welfare state naturally creates divisions between groups with immutable characteristics like age as each group maneuvers to get a larger share of money from the state before it runs out. This sad truth was at the heart of the Conservative Party’s lost majority in the last election.
The young voted almost two thirds for Labour, despite the fact that party was led by Jeremy Corbyn, who was regarded by his own parliamentary party as an unelectable tribune of left wing protest and had as its shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, an open admirer of Lenin and Trotksy. To be sure, the young do not remember the real costs of socialism of either the hard Eastern European kind or the softer British variety. It would almost contribute to the net happiness of Europe if a member of the old Soviet bloc remained to be a negative exemplar for everyone else.
But even with its compromised leadership the Labour party knew how to exploit the fault line between the old and the young created by the modern welfare state. Much of the budget of Britain, like other Western democracies, goes to pension and other benefits to the old for which those younger are largely paying. But given longer life expectancy and lower birth rates, young people fear that they will never get similar benefits, because the well will have run dry by the time they become eligible. Thus, they are energized by the Labour Party’s promise of free college tuition. That promise can be cashed in now, unlike the illusory ones of state pensions four decades hence.
Between 1975 and 1978, one of the more unusual transformations in the history of rock and roll music took place. Bruce Springsteen, a successful and hugely popular singer and guitarist, changed the way his music sounded.
The reasons why reveal a fascinating focal point where leftist politics, depression, Catholicism, and American fiction collide. Springsteen, who recently released a biography called Born to Run, is a liberal elitist and social justice warrior who is worshiped by the Left as a savior. How he got to be that, and how American literature and his battle with depression influenced him, are much more fascinating than a simplistic political reading of the man born in Long Branch, New Jersey in 1949.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the debate about how health care should be governed is the mistaken claim that the world prior to Obamacare involved free market health care. This, of course, is nonsense. That health care world was the product of a mixed system – of markets in health care combined with a myriad of government regulations combined further with the government provision of health care under various programs. In my view, this system is responsible for many of the infirmities that people complain about with respect to health care and health insurance, such as problems with preexisting conditions, cost escalation, bureaucratic procedures, and health insurance access problems for people with low income.